- Iranian-Americans are an essential part of the United States’ tech industry, heading firms such as Uber and legendary Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator.
- Some Iranian-American business leaders, like Intuit’s Sasan Goodarzi, credit their success to their experiences as first- and second-generation immigrants.
- Many business leaders included here fled Iran in the late 1970s and early 1980s following the events of the Iranian Revolution.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Tensions between the United States and Iran continue to escalate following President Donald Trump’s controversial ordering of a deadly strike on Iran’s top general, and allegations that a Ukraine International Airlines flight might have been shot down by an Iranian missile.
Despite increasing tensions between the two nations, there are Iranian-American communities across the country, and they make up a vital part of the US. The Census Bureau estimates that nearly half a million Americans self-identify as having Iranian heritage. The over 27,000 Iranian-Americans living in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan area are especially crucial to Silicon Valley, where skilled tech workers are in high demand.
Business Insider has assembled a list of major companies helmed or founded by Iranian-Americans.
Many of the business leaders included on this non-exhaustive list fled Iran in the late 1970s and early 1980s following the Iranian Revolution that overthrew a monarchy and implemented an Islamic Republic.
Dara Khosrowshahi, the current CEO of Uber, arrived in the US as an Iranian refugee when he was 9 years old.
Khosrowshahi is the former CEO of Expedia. He took over as Uber CEO in 2017. He fled Iran as a child when his prominent family's major pharmaceutical conglomerate was seized and nationalized by the Iranian government.
At a luncheon in December 2019, Khosrowshahi said the best piece of advice he ever received was from Herbert Allen of boutique investment bank Allen & Co.: "I bet on people, not companies. But in a world where so much is changing - businesses change, environments change, countries change - one constant is that people stay good."
Second-generation Iranian-American Arash Ferdowsi dropped out of MIT to cofound Dropbox.
Hospitality and entertainment mogul Sam Nazarian was born in Tehran in 1975.
As the CEO and owner of SBE Entertainment, Nazarian owns several nightclubs, hotels, and restaurants, including SLS hotels and Umami Burger. He grew up in California after his Persian Jewish family left Tehran following the Iranian Revolution. His father made a fortune as an early investor in Qualcomm Inc.
Brothers Paul and David Merage created the iconic American snack Hot Pockets in the early 1980s.
Hot Pockets, the iconic American snack, were created by two Iranian immigrant brothers. Paul and David Merage were born in Tehran. They got the idea for their company, Chef America, while attending college in California. The pair sold the company to Nestle in 2002 for $2.6 billion.
eBay founder Pierre Omidyar was born into an Iranian family in France, before moving to the US at age 6.
Omidyar wrote the code for online auctioneer eBay by himself in 1995 in an attempt to impress his girlfriend, according to Entrepreneur. Omidyar served as the company's chairman before stepping down to focus on impact investing, Forbes reported. He also founded First Look Media, the owner of The Intercept and producer of films "Spotlight" and "Dark Money," according to Fast Company.
Omidyar has a net worth of $13 billion, Forbes estimates.
Sasan Goodarzi, the CEO of TurboTax and QuickBooks parent Intuit, said being bullied for his Iranian heritage defined his leadership style.
Goodarzi's family immigrated to the United States just before the Iranian Revolution, when he was 10 years old, he wrote in 2018 essay for Entrepreneur. Goodarzi wrote that he experienced bullying and difficulties at school during the Iranian hostage crisis, which taught him the value of hard work and inclusion. Goodarzi was appointed CEO of Intuit in January 2019 after a 15-year career with the company, Business Insider reported.
Tinder founders Sean Rad and Justin Mateen were both raised in a Persian-Jewish community in Beverly Hills.
Rad and Mateen first became friends as children, Rad told Rolling Stone in 2014.
Rad founded Tinder in 2012 after dropping out of the University of Southern California to found a now-defunct adtech platform called Adly, Business Insider reported.
The pair have been embroiled in several lawsuits. In one settled in 2014, Tinder cofounder and current Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd alleged that Rad ignored her sexual harassment complaint against Mateen, according to The New York Times. Rad temporarily lost his post atop Tinder as a result and left the company in 2016. Rad is also in the midst of multibillion-dollar lawsuit with Tinder's parent company IAC, according to the LA Times.
Silicon Valley investor Ali Rowghani was born in Iran.
Rowghani is a partner at Y Combinator, the startup incubator that helped launch Airbnb, Dropbox, Instacart, and DoorDash, according to the organization's website. Before pivoting to investing, Rowghani served as Twitter's chief operating officer, the South China Morning Post reported.